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Nigeria Oil Output Hits 22-year Low As Violence Spreads

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Nigeria’s oil output has slumped to a 22-year low, figures showed on Tuesday, because of pipeline sabotage and increasing unrest that has seen major companies evacuate staff.

Data compiled by Bloomberg indicated that output in Africa’s biggest oil producer has fallen below 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time since 1994.

Rebels seeking a fairer share of revenue for locals in the oil-rich southern delta are increasingly targeting facilities, posing a fresh security challenge for President Muhammadu Buhari.

The attacks have sparked fears of a repeat of violence and kidnappings that plagued the region in the 2000s and saw Nigeria’s output cut by a third, slashing government revenue.

It also risks hitting crude supplies at a time when Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy is facing a slump because of the fall in global prices.

Fresh queues at petrol stations around the country restarted this week, following speculation the government was to withdraw fuel subsidies that keep prices low at the pump.

Rebel attacks 

Last week, rebels from the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Okan offshore facility operated by US oil major Chevron.

The company said on Saturday some 35,000 bpd of crude was lost, although some estimates have put the loss higher.

At the weekend, Anglo-Dutch giant Shell evacuated most of its staff from its Eja production facility near the Bonga field.

Local media said 98 personnel were airlifted to safety by helicopter, leaving a skeleton staff protected by the military. Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary did not confirm the operation.

But it said in a statement it was continuing to monitor the security situation and was “taking all possible steps to ensure the safety of staff and contractors”.

Dirk Steffen, of the Denmark-based Risk Intelligence consultancy firm, told AFP the evacuation was a “precautionary” step because of threats from the NDA.

Steffen, the head of maritime security for the firm, said the NDA issued new threats on May 5 after claiming responsibility for the Chevron attacks.

“This time they specifically name the facilities they would be targeting… I assume this is also what prompted Shell to take precautionary measures,” he wrote in an email.

In February, Shell declared “force majeure” after an attack on a pipeline feeding the Forcados terminal, which typically exports about 200,000 barrels a day. It is expected to resume in June.

Driving factors 

Consultants BMI Research said the renewed unrest in the key region was “a worrying development as it demonstrates the increasing sphere of assets that are under risk”.

“Shell’s much larger Bonga field sits next door to the Eja facility and often exports over 200,000 bpd, highlighting much greater production risks than were previously anticipated.”

BMI said production disruption in the delta has historically been onshore and was a major factor driving Shell’s divestment of onshore assets and switch in focus to offshore blocks.

“The most recent attacks offshore are a new safety concern for those companies which once again find themselves vulnerable to supply disruptions,” it added.

The renewed violence comes after Buhari — facing Islamist militants Boko Haram in the northeast — began a crackdown on endemic corruption in the sector and rampant oil theft.

The government has also said it would wind up an amnesty programme, which was introduced in 2009 and saw thousands of rebels swap violence for monthly training and education stipends.

The upsurge in attacks since January has also been linked to multi-million-dollar corruption charges brought against Government Ekpemupolo, a former rebel leader nicknamed Tompolo.

He is accused of defrauding the government of some $225 million. The NDA is thought to contain his supporters although he has denied any links to the group.

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Excise duty collection surges 48% in FY21 on high fuel levies

The total excise duty in the last financial year was over Rs 2.39 lakh crore.

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New Delhi, Jan 17 : As the government has kept excise duty on petrol and diesel elevated amid the pandemic with a view to increase revenue, the total excise duty collection during April-November FY21 has surged nearly 48 per cent as compared to the year ago period.

The excise duty collection during the first eight months of the current financial year was over Rs 1.96 lakh crore, compared to over Rs 1.32 lakh crore collected during April-November FY20, official data showed.

The collection in November 2020 was highest so far in the financial year 2020-21 at Rs 35,703 crore. In November 2019, excise duty collection stood at Rs 18,948 crore.

The total excise duty in the last financial year was over Rs 2.39 lakh crore.

As fuel prices are at record high despite low crude oil prices, demand has been raised from several quarters to reduce the excise duty on petrol and diesel to provide relief to the common man.

In the national capital, petrol is sold at a record high level of Rs 84.70 a litre while diesel is priced at Rs 74.88 per litre.

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Bill Gates is America’s biggest farmland owner

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates owns the largest chunk of private farmland in the US across 18 states, a new report has revealed.

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San Francisco: Bill and Melinda Gates amassed 242,000 acres of land in the US, with the largest holdings in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Nebraska (20,588 acres), according to The Land report.

Bill Gates also owns a stake in more than 24,800 acres of transitional land outside of Phoenix.

Research indicated that the lands across the US is held by Cascade Investment LLC, Gates’ private investment vehicle.

“Gates also backs online used-car seller Vroom through Cascade as well as the Canadian National Railway Company,” Geek Wire reported.

According to the Tri-City Herald, a 14,500-acre swath of choice Eastern Washington farmland in the Horse Heaven Hills in Benton County has just traded hands for almost $171 million – part of Gates’ holdings.

It is unclear why Gates has invested so heavily in farmland, but it could be connected to climate change.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a new nonprofit group a year ago, focused on helping small-scale farmers in developing countries with the tools and innovations they’ll need to deal with the effects of climate change.

Bill Gates is currently at the third spot on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $132 billion.

But even with his big new agricultural holdings, Gates still doesn’t rank in the Top 100 private landowners overall in the US, considering owners of land of all types.

The list is topped by Liberty Media’s John Malone, with 2.2 million acres of ranches and forests. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos makes that list at No. 25 with 420,000 acres.

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HDFC Bank’s Q3 standalone net profit rises 18%

The rise in net interest income was driven by advance growth of 15.6 per cent and a core net interest margin for the quarter of 4.2 per cent.

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Mumbai, Jan 16 : Lending major HDFC Bank on Saturday reported an 18.1 per cent increase in standalone net profit for the quarter ended December 31 of FY21 on a year-on-year basis.

The bank’s net profit for the third quarter of FY21 rose to Rs 8,758.3 crore on a YoY basis.

“After providing Rs 3,013.6 crore for taxation, the bank earned a net profit of Rs 8,758.3 crore, an increase of 18.1 per cent over the quarter ended December 31, 2019,” the bank said in a statement.

The bank’s net revenues (net interest income plus other income) grew to Rs 23,760.8 crore during the period under review from Rs 20,842.2 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2019.

Besides, net interest income (interest earned less interest expended) for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 grew by 15.1 per cent to Rs 16,317.6 crore from Rs 14,172.9 crore during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.

The rise in net interest income was driven by advance growth of 15.6 per cent and a core net interest margin for the quarter of 4.2 per cent.

“The bank’s persistent focus on deposits helped in the maintenance of a healthy liquidity coverage ratio at 146 per cent, well above the regulatory requirement.”

Furthermore, the bank made provision and contingencies worth Rs 3,414.1 crore as against Rs 3,043.6 crore during the quarter ended December 31, 2019.

“Total provisions for the current quarter include contingent provisions of nearly Rs 2,400 crore for proforma NPA as described in the asset quality section.”

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